Welcome to Stratford Public School's Principal Blog
Olaf, Christmas, and Thanksgiving NapsPosted by Jason Hook on 12/2/2019 10:15:00 AM
As we welcome everyone back from our first extended break from school, I have to say that I’m amazed we’ve already completed three months of the school year. How was your weekend, and how was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was filled with family, friends, football, laughter, and maybe a nap. Naps are good. I enjoyed spending time with the family in Brunswick and then on Saturday my wife and I took our oldest (she’s four) to see Frozen 2 at the Rialto. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty good. Olaf still likes warm hugs, Reeses Pieces are still the best movie snack, and (mental note) apparently four year-olds love the theater so much that they can’t sit still.
In other good news, we’re welcoming three new students to the Lions’ Den, and are excited about the positive energy surrounding the school right now. On that note, if you have a child that you’re looking to get enrolled in Pre-K next fall, please let us know.
We’ve also got a busy few weeks ahead of us as we near Christmas and the holiday season. To start, our Drama Club is putting on Ebenezer’s Christmas Carol next Thursday. Big shout out to teachers Danielle Adams and Matt Woods for taking the reins and putting this all together. The following week we’ll be having our annual Holiday Concert, as directed by Kate Sorochak – music teacher extraordinaire for Stratford, Groveton and Stark. Next week is also our next School Board meeting. We would love to see as many folks as possible from Stratford, Brunswick and Bloomfield attend. Plan to be here at 5:30 in the Multi-Purpose Room if you’re coming!
I’m also excited to share that our community is hosting the 3rd Annual Christmas on the Common, next Saturday, December 7, from 4-7pm. Please come and enjoy kids’ crafts, warm food and drinks, a visit with Santa, a bonfire, an ugly sweater contest, Christmas caroling, and the lighting of the Christmas tree. The folks behind this event have been working hard to put together something truly wonderful, and they all hope you’ll stop by for a while. I know that I’m looking forward to it.
What holds us together and keeps this community strong are the collective roots of us all. Some families have been here for generations, and seen generations of Lions graduate high school here on the hill; and some families are growing their roots right now, creating the generations of those who will come after us. Whenever you have called this place home, we welcome you to be a part of our story as we move forward into the future.
Another spoiler alert: I’ve got more exciting news, but you’re going to have to wait a bit for it!
A Day for GratitudePosted by Jason Hook on 11/14/2019 1:30:00 PM
There are advantages and disadvantages to having about fifteen pounds of leftover Halloween candy. It all started with my wife and I wanting to have a boon of sweets for trick or treaters. You know the rules for Halloween… make sure to have plenty of chocolate, and don’t be the house that gives out fruit. I don’t know how much we started with, but I’m pretty sure Amazon sent a forklift to get it out of the UPS truck when it arrived.
Long story short, it turns out people don’t really trick or treat on our street. I mean, the kid across the way made out big time when he stopped by with his folks, but we were left with an Amazon Prime sized load of candy like nobody’s business. Pretty soon it was decided that, one way or another, I was going to find a way to put it to use at the school.
Turns out candy is a great motivator for pop quizzes when wandering the hallways.
I’ve also learned that one should never ask students to name who the president was when I was born.
“When were you born?” they said.
“Abraham Lincoln!” they said.
“No, no candy for you,” I said.
“Dear God,” I said. “I’m clearly going to have eat all of this myself.”
(For the record, Jimmy Carter was president when I was born.)
That brings me to today, and to gratitude. I popped into Mrs. Andritz’s Language Arts class to see what her students were up to. It was inspiring to see that everyone was working on discussing and writing about what they’re grateful for. These notes and stories are then shared and distributed, and students have an opportunity to see what their peers value and hold close to their hearts. This is the good stuff.
Today is also important because today we held our annual Thanksgiving lunch for students and their families. Tania and Debbie, from our kitchen staff, put together a beautiful meal and fed close to 100 people this afternoon. For about an hour, our cafeteria was filled with smiling faces – children, parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, and staff members. It’s a special thing to see and be a part of, because of what this community and school mean to each other.
For me, I’m grateful for everyone here, and to be a part of this school once again. Matt Heinmuller, our tech guru extraordinaire for the SAU, brought me a gift today. He likes to stop by Tinkerville Antiques down at the bottom of the hill to poke around and see what Eric is selling. Today, Matt rolled in with a pennant and bench cushion. Incidentally, I had the same pennant in my bedroom as a kid, and I recall those bench cushions from my youth, too. I hadn’t seen either in years. It really brought me back.
I’m grateful for the staff that come here every day to serve our students, and for the families that support them, and support this school. You can’t find the kind of people that work here just anywhere. I’ll tell you one more quick story: Yesterday, our evening custodian, Ms. Ashley Prime, came in first thing in the morning to work as a substitute teacher. At the end of the day, a day in which she never paused from her duties, she changed into another set of work clothes and set about cleaning the building. At 7:30 last night, as I took a moment in the hallway outside of the School Board meeting to speak to her before she left, she offered to stay as long as we were there, to close up the building for us. And she meant it. I thanked her, and told her to head home. She’d given more than enough for one day, but she was willing to do more if asked. Ms. Prime is just one example of the level of care our staff bring.
Come see us for yourself. Between our PAWS group and any number of upcoming events and student activities, we welcome you. And if you aren’t already here, we’d love for you to be a part of our story.
(And you might even get a miniature piece of candy if you can answer random academic trivia questions...)
Tacos and Trunk or TreatingPosted by Jason Hook on 10/25/2019 9:45:00 AM
We all have a few favorite foods, and I’m no different (okay, maybe I have a more than just a few). In particular, I like a good, rare ribeye grilled over charcoal, fried seafood, roast beef bulkies from DeBanville’s, and despite other opinions I’ll tell you that pineapple absolutely belongs on a pizza (but with pepperoni, not ham), and tacos. Tacos are pretty much the best thing ever. That brings me to Wednesday night’s School Board meetings (there were two). If you weren’t there, you missed out.
One of our school parents operates a catering business called Papa Tacos. If you’re not familiar, look them up on Facebook. You’re going to want to see what Ino and crew are cooking up (see what I did there?). Light refreshments at board meetings aren’t uncommon, but thanks to Ino, we were treated to an enormous spread of tortillas, pork, beans, rice and peas, and all of the fixings. He also brought homemade red and green salsas, which were some of the best I’ve had.
I pulled Ino aside and told him, “Ino, this salsa is so good I think I could drink it.”
“That’s the New Hampshire mild,” he chuckled, “I figured I’d go easy on everyone.”
Touché, Papa Tacos.
I know I went home with a full belly. Here’s to hoping for future events filled with smiles and tacos, because after all, you can’t help but smile with a plate of food that good. And you see? When you come to a school board meeting you not only get to advocate and be a part of the process, but sometimes you get treated to something extra. Many thanks to Ino and crew. As always, please know that everyone in our communities of Stratford, Brunswick and Bloomfield are welcome at these meetings and we love to see you there.
In other news, next week is Halloween. That’s right, we’re already two months into the school year that just started yesterday. Time really does fly. The day before Halloween – the 30th – we’re going to be having our first (and hopefully annual) Trunk or Treat in the school parking lot from 3-4. If you’d like to come and pop your trunk or drop your tailgate and pass out candy to some happy kiddos, we’d love to see you. Give us a call at 922-3387 and we’ll put you in touch with Mrs. Caouette.
(PS, the Principal likes Kit-Kats. You know, if you happen to have any you need to get rid of.)
Also there are still a few days left to participate in our SAU-wide strategic planning survey. If you’ve got fifteen minutes and want to help with the direction of our SAU, please visit www.sau58.org and scroll down until you see the survey link. We welcome your participation. This isn’t just for parents and staff, either. This is for all community members with an interest in helping the school.
Lastly, I’m greatly enjoying my conversations with all of you. Some of you I’ve known all my life, and some of you I’ve only just met. Please know that you mean everything to this school. We are here, doing the work we’re doing, because of the extensive community of Blue and White. Thank you for your voices, support and encouragement.
Rise up, Lions. It’s a great day to be on this hill.
Honoring Our PastPosted by Jason Hook on 10/17/2019 8:00:00 AM
Stratford, like many other North Country schools, has a long history. In 2016 we marked 100 years on this hill. Our town sprung up alongside a river filled with logs, from which we forged a community and a future. Our school mission states, “Stratford students will be stewards of their community,” and our past is filled with educators who gave decades of their lives to generations of young people. Their stories are etched in the reams of yearbooks in the Principal’s office, dating back to some of our earlier days. As we celebrate the present and look to the future in Stratford, it’s a good time to pause and remember those who paved the way for us.
Mary Nugent was one of those teachers that gave decades of service to Stratford Public School, from the 1950’s into the 1970’s, before serving on the School Board in the early 1980’s. She taught middle and high school – English, Social Studies, and also Math when needed. Known as a passionate educator and servant of her community, and one who would do anything to help her students learn, Mrs. Nugent had an impact through the generations that still ripples today.
I knew her as Mrs. Nugent, a retired teacher that lived on the hill behind my grandparents’ house along Route 3. She was warm and kind and would open her door for anyone. She remained devoted to the Lions and she was always interested in what we were learning in school. One memory of her, in particular, stands out. It was the early 1990’s, and Andy Coppinger was our high school social studies teacher. He was teaching a semester-long course on World War II, and my life-long love of history was developing rapidly. After school one afternoon, after digging into Pearl Harbor in class, I walked up the hill to Mrs. Nugent’s house to visit with her. As we got to talking about Mr. Coppinger’s class, she left the room and returned a few minutes later with some old, yellowed newspapers. She opened the first one on the kitchen table to reveal the front page story of the Japanese attacks on December 7, 1941. I remember Mrs. Nugent folding her hands and talking about that day as though it had only just happened. But she didn’t stop there – she went through the paper with me and guided me to other articles about the time, to ads for clothing, and to other stories as she painted a picture of life at the moment of Pearl Harbor, for ordinary people living lives not entirely different from our own in my time.
A few short years later, Mrs. Nugent passed away, leaving a legacy that is still felt in our community, not only by those who remember her, but in the long tradition of student-centered learning and caring that embodies our school. We are better for her having given so much of herself here, as a teacher and a member of the School Board, and as an involved citizen – a steward of her community – just as our school mission statement asks of those we teach.
When we stand on the hardwood floors of our hallways and classrooms today, we are standing alongside 100 years of memories of those who came before us, and every day we are grateful for each one of them.
It’s another great day to be a Lion.
Learning Through ExperiencePosted by Jason Hook on 10/10/2019 12:00:00 PM
I’m a little old-fashioned. It’s true. I still take a notepad to meetings, while most everyone else has a laptop. I think people should learn how to drive a stick-shift before an automatic, that sir and ma’am are always appropriate to say, that the 2004 Red Sox are the greatest baseball team of all time, and I think kids learn best when they can actively engage with their learning.
One of the best ways to get kids fired up about school is to get them involved and really participate. I’m excited to say that Mrs. Christine Caouette is doing just that with her science classes, and has involved multiple staff and students from throughout the school. She has brought the Appalachian Mountain Club to Stratford, where club members are helping teaching students in the classroom, and as part of this a large portion of our student body and teachers traveled to Pinkham Notch on Tuesday for a day of hiking and learning. Middle, elementary, and other school staff all came together to give our students this experience that Mrs. Caouette spearheaded, and we’re all grateful for it.
On a similar note, I had the opportunity today to observe Mrs. Brianna Tibbetts’s Kindergarten class this morning, where she was leading a math lesson. I was immediately impressed by how she engaged with her students. You all know Kindergarteners: wonderful little people with limitless energy? I have a four year-old at home – chasing one little person is tough enough for me. But these kids were rapt with attention. Mrs. Tibbetts had them on their feet and singing, before showing them exactly what they’d be learning. Math class included hands-on practical exercises, games, and even a little math dancing, while she repeatedly checked on the progress of each student, multiple times throughout the lesson.
If you look at our mission statement, you’ll see that it reads, “Stratford students will be stewards of their community.” Our teachers really take that to heart, and the level of engagement they demonstrate is picked up on by students. Look out for us! Mrs. Terry Andritz is about to begin her annual food drive (she’s been at it for ten years already!), and some of our middle school students will be promoting the civics lessons they’re getting in Mr. Matthew Woods’s Social Studies class by helping some of those most in need in the Stratford and Northumberland communities.
Participation. Engagement. Service. Family… Some things never go out of style.
It’s another great day to be a Lion.
Knockout and Other ThoughtsPosted by Jason Hook on 9/30/2019 12:15:00 PM
The kids were excited and gathered at the basketball court behind the school. It was the end of the day and we were all waiting for the second bus. It’s a nice court. Have you seen it? I had to admit, I kind of wished we’d had it back in the 80’s and 90’s.
“Are you good at basketball?” they asked.
“Well, I spent a lot of time on the bench when I was kid watching other people play, so I guess you could say I have a pretty good understanding of the game,” I said.
They laughed. I laughed. I shot an air ball. Life was good.
We played two or three rounds of knockout, which quickly devolved into “who can get the principal out first.” To their credit, they took turns. We’re all about the sharing here, especially when it comes to getting the principal out.
They waved when they got on the bus, and I got to chat for a minute with one of our recent 8th grade graduates, seeing how things are going down in Groveton.
“It’s a change,” he said, shrugging, “but it’s going well.”
Stratford kids are resilient. It doesn’t matter if they’re starting school, going into middle school, heading to Groveton for high school and surrounded by new peers, or going out into the world to make their mark. Stratford kids are resilient, and they become resilient adults. It’s really a credit to the school and community, to those who came before us. We have long memories here, and this building is very much a part of who we are and who we become.
Things inevitably change. As they say, there’s a season for everything. Thankfully, there are some things that always seem to remain true. One of those things is having an amazing group of teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff. We’ve got a great crew here – truly some of the best. And they’re here for the right reasons; namely: the kids, and that they love what they do.
Happy Monday, all. It’s a new week, a new day, and another chance to do it right.
Great things are coming.
Welcome, StratfordiansPosted by Jason Hook on 9/24/2019 9:00:00 AM
Greetings, Stratfordians old and new! It’s hard to believe that we’re already approaching October, but the school year is well underway and the building is humming with excitement every day. Over the past four weeks, I’ve gotten to know many parents and community members, and reconnected with others I haven’t seen since my own days as a Stratford student (let’s not talk about how long ago that was). The spirit of this community is alive and well, and I’ll be the first to tell you that every day, entering this school is special. It truly is good to be home.
As principal, I feel I can’t communicate enough. There are so many things and so many stories that might otherwise get lost in the day to day shuffle of classes, laughter and life, so I’m starting this blog as a way of letting you all in to the world of Stratford Public School. For those of you who are parents, it will be a way to learn a little more about the everyday goings-on at the school, and for others in the community and alumni scattered across the North Country and beyond, I hope it will be a way for you to reconnect a bit with us. I’ll be sharing blog posts 2-3 times per week, with a varying focus. Some posts will be about the day to day of the school, and some will be about us, our history, and our community. More than anything, I hope to begin a dialog with you, and through this blog, invite you back into this school that means so much to so many.
Welcome home, Lions.
Principal's blog coming soonPosted by Administrator SAU58 on 9/23/2019 7:00:00 AM
Please check back for the new Principal's blog.